Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Verdict for Defendant in Flatbed Trailer Accident, Based on Lack of Accurate Standard of Care

Understanding the types of evidence that you need to present in a car accident lawsuit can be confusing. There are many different categories of evidence that you can present, and there are unique rules that apply to certain types of evidence. Although it may seem like liability is clear, it is still essential to present sufficient evidence to meet your burden of proof and to show the jury that you are entitled to relief. As dedicated Massachusetts car accident lawyers, we have assisted numerous accident victims with protecting their legal rights.

A recent appellate opinion demonstrates the necessity of being thorough when presenting evidence in your lawsuit. The plaintiff was driving his vehicle along the Massachusetts Turnpike when a vehicle being transported on a flatbed trailer fell from the flatbed and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the car that slid off the flatbed truck and the individuals who were transporting the car on the flatbed. The lawsuit proceeded to a trial, and the jury returned a verdict for one of the defendants.

The plaintiff appealed the lower court’s entry of judgment in favor of the defendant on several bases. First, he argued that the defendant’s attorney made inappropriate statements during opening argument and that a mistrial should have been granted as a result. Next, he argued that the jury should have been given an instruction about a legal doctrine called res ipsa loquitur. This principle holds that the occurrence of some types of events implies that negligence was involved. The plaintiff can offer circumstantial evidence to show that the harm would not typically have occurred without some negligent conduct. Finally, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in refusing to grant his motion for a new trial.

The appellate court first addressed the contentions surrounding the opening statement. In the opening statement, the defendant’s attorney said that during the 19 months that the plaintiff waited to file his personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff did not produce his medical records in a timely manner. The appellate court did not find this statement to be incurably prejudicial, and it held that the trial court was within its rights to deny the plaintiff’s motion for a mistrial based on these comments. Furthermore, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff did not appropriately preserve his objection to the statements and that the trial court was careful to instruct the jury that things said during opening statements are not considered evidence.

Turning to the res ipsa loquitur claim, the appellate court concluded that the plaintiff did not provide the jury with sufficient evidence regarding the standard of care that must be used to transport and secure a damaged vehicle on a flatbed trailer. It also noted that expert testimony is necessary to support an instruction based on the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. Instead of discussing the applicable standard of care in this scenario, the plaintiff argued that the method used by the defendants was obviously negligent because the vehicle on the flatbed trailer did not stay secure.

Finally, regarding the issue of whether the trial court erred in denying the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, the appellate court stated the rule that a verdict rendered by a jury can only be set aside when the verdict is against the clear weight of the evidence. Pointing to the absence of any information regarding the applicable standard of care, the appellate court concluded that the jury reasonably found in favor of the defendant.

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Office of Michael O. Smith, our seasoned Boston car accident lawyers are ready to help you understand your legal rights while providing you with personalized and zealous advocacy. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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